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Pakistani Civilians “Reassure” Military

In the theater of the absurd that is Pakistani politics, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has denied published reports that he was threatening to fire the heads of Pakistani’s military and of the ISI.  As the NY Times solemnly reports, Gilani announced that rumors of a split between civilian and military leaders in Pakistan were just that.

No doubt Generals Kayani and Pasha were relieved to find that their civilian overlords had decided, for now, to spare them.

Or not.

Even casual students of Pakistan understand that the threat is the other way round: the question isn’t whether the weak and divided civilians pose a threat to the military, but whether the military still finds it convenient to let a hapless civilian government absorb public wrath and contempt for the failures and shortcomings of the Pakistani state. (The civilian politicians get influence over civilian spending and policy plus the usual corruption and graft in exchange for accepting the deal.)

For more than a year, rumors of military backed changes of government have circulated through Pakistan; many are fueled by deliberate leaks from current and former officers or other figures closely linked to the military system.  Any country actually controlled by civilians would long ago have fired and possibly jailed military officials implicated in a coup-threatening whisper campaign.  That the Pakistani prime minister seeks to paper over differences with an army that openly mocks him tells you all you need to know about where the real power lies in this unhappy land.

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